My Week In Kids Poetry

Like most things that happen to me it was a bit of an accident. The side-effect of having a big mouth which has a way of getting me involved in all sorts of things I didn’t anticipate. But I’m not complaining – I have had some wonderful and even life changing experiences as a result.

And so last week I found myself teaching poetry to thirty-two ten-year-olds. I am not a teacher, although I once wrote a poem which the Canberra Times published. But I am an author and I love talking about words with kids. So I set myself a mission – to convince the class that poetry wasn’t all boring. I was honest – I admitted some of it was – because poetry is personal – and from a young perspective some of the classic children’s pieces haven’t dated well. The class wasn’t too keen on looking at ‘old dead poets’.

We began with Poems That Make You Laugh and Andy Griffiths was our Poet of the Day. He was a good choice – a friendly and trusted name in the classroom – someone the kids knew wouldn’t let them down by being boring. One look at the Very Bad Book Trailer immediately scored me a point for non-boring poetry and provided an opening to talk about how poetry can be controversial. We cut poems into bits (stanza, lines and rhymes), played with limericks and fractured (nay destroyed!) a few nursery rhymes.

On Tuesday we were up to Poems That Make a Noise with Michael Rosen as our Poet of the Day. We did the Michael Rosen rap and talked about rhythm, refrain, alliteration and onomatapoeias. We made a lot of noise and found that Michael’s poems did too. We wrote great poems about a haunted house using onomatapoeas and some I-Spy couplets using alliteration. That afternoon, kids came up to me as I waited in the playground, to tell me a new limerick or alliteration tongue twister. One boy even brought an Andy Griffiths book (one of the Just series) to show me he had found a poem in the back. I’m hoping that means they are having fun.

On Wednesday we turned to our first ‘old dead poet’ to talk about Poems that Paint Pictures. Our poet of the day was Dorathea Mackellar and we discussed lyric poems and emotion. We got all patriotic listening to My Country sung at the Australia Day celebrations in 2010. We drew a picture based on Open Sea and then looked at how poetry made pictures in our heads – simile, metaphor, adjectives and personification. We wrote simile and metaphor poems about ourselves (“I’m Great”) and everyone wanted to read aloud. Then we wrote personification poems about how things came to life in our bedroom at night. It’s a party in there after dark! Did you know bookshelves are big readers when everyone is asleep?

Finally, just for fun, we made a simile and metaphor chatterbox. Apparently I “dance like a duck.” Sigh. It’s true.

PS If you need someone to teach poetry…

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5 responses to “My Week In Kids Poetry”

  1. Selling poetry to kids – especially boys is definitely a challenge.Well done Sandy. It sounds like the kids had as much fun as you.


  2. Diet Program says:

    I have to check out the books of Andy Griffiths. Sounds like a good way to introduce my kids to poetry. Thanks for the tip!

  3. boobook says:

    Brilliant, Sandy! Lucky kids, it sounds like you all had a ball. 🙂

  4. I am having so much fun but the best part is I am pretty sure the kids are too. Some of the stuff they come up with is golden – like the line about bookshelves reading at night!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Take some advice from a parent….Andy Griffiths’s books are demoralizing and cause behavior problems in children. The absurd thing about public and school libraries is that not one of the library workers I have talked to knows what is inside the books. The lame excuse most of them come up with is that “the children love it” and ” it’s so funny”

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